The chief goal of
the conference committee is to dot the Is and cross the Ts
on how the state will invest $1.5 billion more into public
education over the next seven years. But negotiators also
have to decide whether to retain an amendment that requires
an analysis of the state law that limits increases in
property taxes, the main source of local funding for K-12
When the Senate
adopted its version of the education funding reform bill
last month, it adopted an amendment from Northampton Sen. Jo
Comerford that requires the Department of Elementary and
Secondary Education to consider the impact that
Proposition 2½ has on local communities and their
ability to make the required local contributions to
approved by voters in 1980 and implemented in 1982, limits
the total annual property tax revenue a municipality can
raise to no more than 2.5 percent of the assessed value of
all taxable property and prohibits cities and towns from
raising property taxes by more than 2.5 percent a year
without first securing support from voters. It was an effort
of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Republican
lawmakers like Rep. Royall Switzler that got the proposal
onto the ballot and into law....
passed the Senate on a 34-4 vote. It requires DESE to
produce "an analysis of the impact of Proposition 2½
on the ability of municipalities to make their required
local contributions in the short-term and long-term and
recommendations to mitigate the constraints of Proposition
Sen. Eric Lesser,
who also represents parts of western Massachusetts, said
Proposition 2½ is a big issue for his communities
because many have total property valuations that are either
flat or declining, but costs for public services rise and
municipalities have to keep pace with inflation.
"What happens is
you hit the ceiling, you can't raise property taxes any more
and there are no other ways to collect income often in these
relatively small towns. Well, there's still a 2 percent
health care cost increase, there's still a collective
bargaining increase, there's a snowstorm and you have higher
fees for plowing than normal. What do you have to do? You
start laying people off, you start cutting services, you
could see schools close, you could see police stations and
police shifts cut back," Lesser said. "There are potentially
catastrophic consequences if we don't get this under
control. Quite frankly, it's a ticking time bomb for our
acknowledged that "dealing with this in this [education]
bill is probably beyond the scope of this bill," but said it
is an urgent issue for "several communities that have
already hit the levy limit." ...
The House, when it
adopted its education bill later in October, did not approve
a similar amendment filed by Pittsfield Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier.
Before the House took the bill up, Citizens for Limited
Taxation sent a letter to all House Republicans
imploring them to keep Farley-Bouvier's amendment out of the
bill. The group said the Senate amendment "is cause for
"Over the decades
Proposition 2½ has come under many stealth attacks in
efforts to dilute and circumvent it, so another is not
surprising," Executive Director Chip Ford wrote in
the letter. In a statement, he added, "If those officials
want to spend more, let them ask their constituents for more
to spend. This is precisely why CLT proposed its property
tax cap and why voters overwhelmingly adopted it. They can
'study the impact' but a solution is in their hands."
branch's Division of Local Services says that "Proposition
2½ revolutionized property tax administration and is a
fundamental feature of the Massachusetts municipal fiscal
landscape, yet there is still some confusion about its
meaning for cities and towns." ...
Robert DeLeo defended Proposition 2½ in 2010 when
Republican lawmakers launched an effort to strike language
they claimed would permit sizeable property tax increases
without voter approval from a Democrat-sponsored so-called
municipal relief bill.
does not favor, and will not support, any weakening of
Proposition 2½," Seth Gitell, then the speaker's
spokesman, told the News Service at the time. "The intent of
the language in the municipal relief package is to provide
cities and towns with a tool for addressing tax abatements
and for better managing their municipal budgets. It is not
the intent of the bill to affect Proposition 2½."
candidate Charlie Baker said the House proposal would be
"dead on arrival" if he were governor....
Bills that would
have altered Proposition 2½ have been reviewed over
the years by the Revenue Committee but have failed to gain
momentum in the Legislature. In 2018, since-retired Rep. Jay
Kaufman talked to WBZ-TV's Jon Keller about the potential
for changes to Proposition 2½.
"I think that's
been another one of those third rail issues that we have
avoided, quite frankly, and that's disappointing as well,"
Kaufman said. He added, "We need to be taking a look at
Prop 2½ all over again because it may have made a lot of
sense when it was first initiated. It's had some unintended
consequences ever since that make it very difficult to make
good tax policy."
State House News Service
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Ed Bill Conferees Face Choice on Prop 2½
Six lawmakers were
named Monday [October 28] to reconcile the House and Senate
approaches to pouring $1.5 billion in new money into the
state's K-12 education system over the next seven years and
to avoid the pitfalls that imperiled last session's failed
attempts to pass similar legislation.
Both branches this
month used as a starting point a bill that was unveiled by
Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo,
and a conference committee will try to hammer out a
compromise bill based on the amended bills that cleared both
branches with overwhelming support.
Sens. Jason Lewis of Winchester and Rep. Alice Peisch of
Wellesley will be joined on the conference by Sen. Michael
Rodrigues of Westport and Rep. Paul Tucker of Salem, both
Democrats, and by Sen. Patrick O'Connor of Weymouth and Rep.
Kim Ferguson of Holden, both Republicans.
The House and
Senate bills (H 4145 and S 2365) contain many similarities
but take different approaches to accountability. The House
bill requires that districts file plans detailing how the
new money will work to close achievement gaps, and gives the
education commissioner signoff powers. The Senate adopted an
amendment to its bill meant to give more decision-making
power to local officials rather than the state commissioner.
"I'm confident we
will get to a final bill that we will all be very happy
with," Lewis said the night the Senate passed its bill
earlier this month.
State House News Service
Monday, October 28, 2019
Negotiators Named to Hash Out Major Education Bill